It Only Takes One: The Girl Who is Still Changing Me

There is a little girl in my class this year who has changed my world. She visits the hospital every month, or more, depending on her lungs. Before she comes to school she has to do physiotherapy and when she gets home she has to do it again. She takes salt tablets and creon pills (her enzymes don’t work like ours do) before eating. Every time she eats. She needs to wear face masks frequently to protect herself from germs. A common cold to a healthy young child is a sickness that could hospitalize her for months. Or worse…

Every day she comes to school in pain. Every day.

Are you picturing a sad little girl in your mind? I think I would. But let me tell you, this small, redheaded, beautiful child, is anything but sad. She makes having Cystic Fibrosis seem like so much fun that half of her classmates want to have it too. I wish those students could see the times when the nurse visits during school to change her PICC line and painful cries fill the classroom while the rest of her friends are outside playing. Yet, she worries more about the boy who is gluten intolerant in our class than she does about herself.

Yes, there are times she arrives at my classroom door crying because her stomach or head hurts even more than usual, or her body aches. But within minutes of those tougher than usual days she is smiling, laughing and telling me about something her little brother did that morning. She recently spent five days in the hospital and showed up Monday morning with her physio bag and the biggest smile on her face, so excited to tell me about her time in the hospital. Even though the week before I received a picture from her mum of her after surgery, looking like she had been hit by a bus. She wanted to tell me about her hospital room and how she woke up in the morning super confused because she thought it looked so much like her own bedroom. Never once did she mention how much it hurt. 

Her smile brings me and her classmates so much joy. She is a rockstar on the monkey bars. She is a gifted artist. Even as I write these words, tears are in my eyes when I think about her. I was terrified at the beginning of the year when this precious child was placed in my care, in my class. I am still scared. But I am also grateful.

Grateful that a five year old has taught me so much about joy, love, and how to live.

Has anyone changed your view point lately?

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“Didn’t you notice it was a manual when you got in?”

My stomach dropped as I climbed inside the rental car and saw the gear shift stick between me and my passenger (friend!), Alicia. By looking for the cheapest rental car possible, dang you frugality, I had accidentally booked a manual car instead of an automatic. My mind flashed back to me at 21 years old convincing four girlfriends that I could drive the South African terrain into Swaziland in a manual car, conveniently forgetting to mention to them that I had only learned how to drive manual the summer before on country back roads. I like to think I handled that road trip well, but I also think I was more fearless at 21.  It’s been over a decade since then and I had driven manual plenty of other times, but I not on the “other side of the road” since that African road trip.

Bringing myself back to the present I took a breath and stepped out of the car, practically sprinting back into the car rental office. “I am fully capable of driving a manual car,” I smiled at the receptionist. “I was just not mentally prepared for it. Do you have any automatic cars available for hire?” Her no wasn’t sorrowful at all, more annoyed. I smiled again and went back outside.

“I can drive a stick shift, Alicia.”  I said aloud, more for my benefit that hers. Her response was immediate, “I believe you! I can’t help at all as I don’t have a clue how to drive manual”. She was super supportive, even when my mind went blank and I forgot to push down the clutch when attempting to start the car. Haha, oops.

Driving manual is like riding a bike, really. It all came back as I started driving around Hobart, even while using my left hand and driving on the left hand side of the road. As soon as I began to pick up speed, however, the car refused to accelerate. I had the pedal to the metal as they say, and it started going slower instead of faster. What? My first thought was that I was doing something wrong. We had just entered onto the highway after I had barely made it over a hill when I pulled over onto the shoulder. I took a deep breath, once again telling Alicia that I knew how to drive a manual. I am a safe driver, I am! After I gave myself a pep talk I tried again. This time we were halfway up a hill when I had to pull over again, the stupid car just wasn’t shifting gears and accelerating the way it was supposed to. Whyyyyyy? I looked in my rearview mirror at the abandoned car behind me, also on the shoulder of the road. I tried again and again to get the car started and moving forward and every time I tried we rolled backwards. Cars, trucks, monster trucks, bigger than monster trucks were flying past us around the curves on the highway. Some honking, all speeding.

Swallowing my pride and after many nudges from Alicia, I finally agreed to call the car rental company. I had a short, curt, and demeaning conversation with a receptionist, let’s call her Kasey, who at one point said, “Didn’t you notice it was a manual when you got in?” Kasey was convinced I had it in reverse, I wasn’t, but my second guessing nature and natural inclination towards I must be the one doing something wrong, had me agreeing with her. Telling me that the worst thing I could do was to panic, Kasey instructed me to try and try again. I actually wasn’t panicked, I was irritated. Alicia was extremely calm this whole time, both of us keeping our nervous energy on the inside (aside from my terrible shaky leg on the clutch).

I ended up rolling backwards into the left lane of the highway around the abandoned car (still rolling backwards mind you) and back onto the shoulder in order to avoid smashing into it. To say we got a few more honks would be pretty accurate. Finally, Alicia succeeded in convincing me to call roadside service with a simple statement, “It’s not safe.” I agreed, this was ridiculous, and absolutely not safe. How in the world was I able to drive a manual for the first 15 minutes of this journey (not to mention the last 12 years) and then forget? How does that work? I was frustrated and grateful, at least we were still safe.

When the police officer pulled over on his motorcycle I can fully guarantee that I had never been more grateful of a cop stopping behind my vehicle in my entire life. I beamed at him, relieved as I rolled down my car window. After explaining the situation to Steve, (real name because he is AWESOME) he began coaching me through what to do, even though, I promise I knew what to do! Steve changed his mind halfway through his instructions and asked me to get out of the car.

Less than 1 minute of sitting in the rental Steve shook his head, got out of the car and said, “The clutch is gone, this car is broken.” VINDICATION. And relief. Also, I am not a mechanic and I know next to zilch about cars so for all of you reading this who already guessed that the clutch was gone, good job. I am happy for you. I called the rental place back and wouldn’t you know, Kasey completely changed her tune when I explained what transpired since our last little chat. She promised to get a tow truck to us immediately and then hoped we would ‘stay warm’ in the chill Tasmania winter. Jee, thanks.

Steve stayed with Alicia and I the whole time, stating he couldn’t leave “damsels in distress” and called for another cop car to come and block the lane further down as cars continued to speed around the curves. He gave thumbs up to the cars being safe and opened his arms wide to the more reckless drivers. Seriously, I love Steve.

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Almost 30 minutes later two men in a pick up truck showed up to tow the car… interesting. “I can smell that!” One of them said towards Steven as he neared the car. Neither men said a word in our direction as Steve ushered us to the back of their truck, what a good person he is. Steve pointed out the oil leaking from the car and I heard one of them tell the other, “Probably needs a whole new gearbox.” We sat in the truck as the car was hooked up. Silence. One man sat in the broken car to steer it behind us while the other merged the truck on the highway. Silence. “So are you Jason, or is the other one Jason?” I asked referring to the name Kasey had given of who was picking us up. “We both are.” Then. Silence.

By the time we got back to the car rental’s office I was fuming. What kind of car rental loans a broken car. In all fairness, I know that you can’t predict when a clutch will go, but surely some kind of safety tests are in place before cars are hired out so you can try not to hand over a worthless car. We stood for a good 10 minutes in the office waiting for Kasey to come and speak with us. She finally emerged and without preamble started explaining how she had given us an upgrade and an automatic car was ready for us.

I gave her a hard look. “I am sorry, I don’t know if I am ready to get back into one of your cars.” Kasey looked a little taken aback and said, “We give our cars safety checks before they go out, there is no way to predict when a clutch goes. People rent out manuals without knowing how to drive them. The last person who rented the car must have driven it to the ground. We are not blaming you.”

“Of course not, it’s not my fault,” I mentioned a few other things about how we lost half the day already, etc. “No one even asked us if we are okay,” I shook my head not believing how this huge safety hazard didn’t even make a blimp on this car rental’s radar.  Kasey paused and looked at us. “That’s just the boys. Are you okay?” She asked quickly. Not exactly flippantly, but not with any deep conviction either.

I held back my anger as I realized I actually appreciated her no-nonsense attitude and really wanted to head out to the Tahune Airwalk. It didn’t hit me later as I was driving the automatic out on the open road that just a few hours before, they said they didn’t have an automatic car. Hmmmm…

In the midst of the silent guys coming to get the car I didn’t get to properly say goodbye to my hero of the day, Steve. Thanks for everything, Steve!

We made it to the Tahune Airwalk.

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Lemonade- Not the Beyoncé Kind

Hi Family! Hi Friends! Hi Strangers!

It’s been a minute, I know. But I am stretching my fingers and cracking my knuckles (yup, literally just did that) and itching to get back on this keyboard.

Living in Melbourne, Australia for the past eleven months has been a whirlwind of adventure, excitement, disappointments, incredible favour— speaking of which I don’t know how the world of Commonwealth countries are able to tolerate American spelling, it just looks wrong to me now, and I am American! How does 31 years of American spelling look wrong after only 11 months? Okay, so there are some things that America got very, very right, I still can’t do Celsius and I love measuring things by inches, pounds, and miles, I do, though I know there is a huge controversial debate on the States going fully metric—errr.. Back to my time in Australia being a whirlwind, I think the biggest shock for me is that I am still getting shocked… culturally. See what I did there?

A couple of weeks ago I went to the movies with two people who have become kind of like my Australian siblings. When I first met my friend and coworker, Alicia’s, little brother, Michael, I creepily whispered, “Be my brother.” and then forgot about it. Apparently, Alicia’s mum (I still prefer mom!) heard it and thought it was funny, which I was obviously trying to be, and told Michael later… he thought about it and said, “Yeah, I’d be her brother.” Ba-da bing ba-da boom, I got myself a little brother.

Back to the movies. We were eating burgers beforehand. Alicia ordered herself a classic burger and a Sprite, and she got a burger and a sprite. I ordered myself a classic burger and a lemonade, and got a burger and a Sprite. What the heck? Tell me this, does coke have another name other than coca-cola? I think not. But in Australia, Sprite is also called lemonade and lemonade is whatever brand of the lemonade it is (Lift, Solo, blablabla). I was super confused when I got my Sprite and stuttered on about lemonade. Meanwhile, Alicia is holding her Sprite and I am holding my Sprite and wanting the Lift lemonade I see clearly behind the glass cooler and the confused cashier is saying, “I can change it for you” but not moving to do so and because I am so flustered I just say, “It’s fine” and walk away. Why did I do that? I really wanted lemonade! I mean Lift! I mean, whatever!

You may think, what a silly thing to have culture shock about. But when all of those silly things add up and every day you’re feeling like you are missing the joke, or the inside knowledge on something, it can be pretty taxing.

It’s the beauty of living abroad. And though I wish the moments didn’t happen quite as often as they do, I love it when they happen just the same. Does that sound contradictory? Well, welcome to my life.

Are you a lemonade or a Sprite person? Shoot, never mind, according to Australia those are the same thing.

Cheers!

February 17 on 17

This week a dear friend of mine moved back to South Korea after living in Australia for a year. She was a faithful sower into the community I am a part of and was sent here (like I was) to help start a church. Before it was time for her to head back home (aka before her visa expired) there were a few things she had to do. And one very important mission was a road trip along the Great Ocean Road.

It feels like it was forever ago, but it’s actually been less than a month since I took a road trip to the Twelve Apostles for the 3rd time. And this is my 17 on 17.

Time to meet the crew.

For some familiarity, I started with me… thanks to Minho for catching this shot by the Erskine Falls in Lorne.

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Minho

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James

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Judy

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Stephanie

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Jaehee

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A snap from the car of the Great Ocean Road (that I did not take because I was driving).

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We found matching tank tops for 3 dollars, I mean, how could we resist?

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Such a legit Airbnb.

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Group picture at the twelve apostles.

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Another great shot by Minho (I know, you aren’t used to seeing pictures of me in my posts, how exciting is this?!).

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When your friend let’s you on his shoulders for an epic shot and you don’t want to get down because you finally feel tall…

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I LIVE HERE! Come visit 🙂

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Hoping to blog before my next 17 on 17… but we shall see. xx

January 17 on 17

It’s my year! Instead of doing my beloved 10 on 10, I have decided to post 17 photos on the 17th. Now, does sev-en-teen on sev-en-teen flow as well as ten on ten? No. So, why would I do something that doesn’t sound as nice? Well, I am glad you asked.

My favorite number is 17. Is this because my birthday falls on the 17th day of the month of May? Yes. Entirely so. I love the number 17! And this year is 2017! And I was terrible at remembering to post on the 10th and narrowing my photos down to 10… so this year, you get 17. I am hoping I am better at posting each month.

I started January off with lazy days and fun days, days full of exploring, and days full of soaking up the sun. It’s my summer holiday after all. I am glad I chose to spend this time around my new home, it’s been nice to get to know the Melbourne area better…

Any photo of me, that is not a selfie, was taken by Judy (thanks, boo).

dsc07956I was ready to quit before we even started going up the 1,000 steps… getting to the base was my workout for the week.dsc07963But I did it! (At the top of 1,000 Steps.)dsc07968Climbed up with these clowns.dsc07972Took a different scenic route on the way down.dsc07975It’s fun doing life with them.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0288.Me and some of the girls took a road trip down to Mornington Peninsula, this is our obligatory selfie (gopro) at Rosebud Beach. It. Was. Gorgeous.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0427.Peninsula Hot Springs. I could come here very week.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0434.It was this much fun and more.

dsc07997dsc08011Exploring the neighborhood, I just read this book on my kindle and would recommend it to everyone.dsc08015This is literally across the street from my apartment.

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I am in love with the above black and white sequence shots of Judy, taken at a fancy restaurant that I had a coupon to, and even though I knew it was fancy I still chose to wear jeans. Sometimes I live dangerously…

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There you have it, my first 17 on 17. Let’s see how well I keep this up in 2017!

My Year of Trust

For me, all of 2016 was about trust. From January until June and really since October of the year before, every time I panicked, every time I felt scared, every time I thought, “is it too late to change my mind?” I heard God clearly say, “Trust me.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

My own understanding of the situation was that I was about to leave the best school I had ever worked for to move to a country that was notorious for being difficult to get visa sponsorship since they have enough teachers of their own. But 7 years in Korea was a long time and I was ready to leave. Then again, I was not ready to leave. I had been begging God to call me to live somewhere else, and then when it happened, I wanted to stay. Oh, we are so fickle!

I was excited to move to Melbourne, Australia and I was terrified at the same time.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. 

Isaiah 43:2

Moving here has by far been the hardest thing I have ever done. I know, I know, my instagram feed shows pictures of me going on amazing adventures and seeing koalas in the wild and feeding kangaroos and exploring waterfalls. But who posts a picture of themselves crying on a living room floor in the middle of the night because they don’t have a place to live yet? Who posts a picture of themselves at a fax machine trying to send request forms to their universities because they can’t get their teaching license registered without actual snail mail transcripts (it’s the digital age people!) so they can’t start looking for work? Who posts a picture of themselves sitting at a cafe by themselves (okay a lot of people do, but you know what I mean) and feeling like they don’t have a friend who knows them enough in this country to know that when they get migraines they can tell by looking at their eyes? Those photos probably wouldn’t get a whole lot of likes, and they are downers, no one wants to see that. And I didn’t want to post that. But every time people asked how I was I tried to be open and honest. I knew it was going to be hard, I just didn’t know what kind of hard it would be. There’s no way of preparing for that.

It’s 2017 now and I have a job at a school that is sponsoring my visa. I live in a great apartment in an incredible location. I have a church community that is starting to feel like family. God is worthy of my trust, and He is faithful.

2016 may have been the toughest year yet, but there were so many moments I have to be grateful for, and I don’t want to forget them.

At the beginning of the year I took a trip to visit friends in the Philippines. Those same friends were able to visit me at the end of this year here in Australia. My friends in Korea made me a book of encouragement to last me the my first year in Melbourne. It is full of notes of encouragement and photos and it is really fat, they love me so much they gave me the first part before I left and mailed the rest of it (which was most of it!) later. My colleagues at GSIS were some of the best people I have ever worked with and they made leaving Suwon (who would have thought?) so hard.  I am so grateful for that. (“Gold! Nay… Diamonds.”) I started (and stopped, oops) exercising! My roommate was my partner in crime and we even did a 10 day sugar detox. Paying off the last of my student loans with my final paycheck from Korea I left debt free. DEBT FREE.

I visited my family in the States and I got to watch my niece dance in a bajillion dances while my nephew played charades (“You’re a tree! You’re a tiger!) with me during the intermission.  I met the newest nephew and held him like he was my own and couldn’t get over how happy my 2nd nephew is, all. the. time. His smile could light up a city, scratch that, a country.

My sister couldn’t talked to me the whole two weeks I was home and I got really good at lip reading. When we were out by the pool my niece who is going through her “only mommy for me!” stage, walked over to where I was sitting with my legs dangling into the water and turned her back to me. She then proceeded to back up towards me and plop herself into my lap. It was the greatest. day. ever. And my other niece kept saying, “Auntie DeeDee come look at this. Auntie DeeDee Let’s pay that. Auntie DeeDee these are my pigs.” Yes, she has real pigs.

My fourth niece (and the 7th grandchild) was born near the end of 2016. I can’t wait to meet her.

My church as doubled in size from when the original team of 12 was called to start it. I love humble beginnings.

At the end of 2016 I celebrated my six month mark here in Australia. And while feeding kangaroos and seeing inspiring landmarks is ridiculously cool, I will remember this year by the conversations with my CG at Eight One Eight. I will remember the 5th grader who told me I taught her how special reading is. And renting a car for the first time to go on a road trip with my friend who visited me from Singapore. I will remember friends showing me the best food spots in Melbourne, even though they were here for the weekend from Sydney. And hearing about how the child I teach in Sunday school volunteered to pray on her own. I will remember my niece getting really excited when I walked through the door carrying her sister’s silly monkey because she thought I was back to play. I will remember working at a mapping company for two weeks clicking on facebook links and meeting the nicest people. I will remember my friends who stayed with me my last night in Korea and helped carry my luggage to the airport. I will remember eating dinner with my pastor and tears streaming down my face as she empathised and understood my struggles living in this country and gave me wisdom on what to do next. I will remember learning how different Australian culture is to my own and starting to love the way they spell and say things.

Thank you God, for teaching me how to trust in a whole new way. Thank you for 2016.

10 on 10- November

I had big plans for this month’s photo post. The month of October proved to be super fruitful with several friends visiting, resulting in many pictures being taken. But then… I heard about the Night Noodle Markets. And the opening night of this glorious event was today, November 10th.

I realised (see what I did there?) that my friends’ visits deserve their own posts, possibly even their own albums on facebook. At some point. But the Night Noodle Markets? That was worthy of a 10 on 10 blog post. Taking a much needed break after work today, and before I started writing more report card comments, I strolled down the road, crossed the river, and found myself here.

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Avoiding the crowds meant going as soon as the event opened and I actually brought a tupperware container to save what my small appetite couldn’t eat for my lunch tomorrow. I am such a winner. Not to mention this is a 20 minute walk from my house. Melbourne, I swoon.